Finally, after months of delays, the largest solar farm in East and Central Africa is set to begin construction, with the project being located in Garissa, North-East Kenya. The solar farm is going to sit on 85-hectacres and consist of 200’200 panels, which are expected to generate 55MW of energy, enough to power 625’00 homes. The project was initially scheduled to start in July but complications and disagreements about the PPA between the Rural Electrification Authority (REA), whom are the designated power plant developer and Kenyan power, resulted in months of delays, however, a figure of $0.12/kWh has now been agreed upon.
A number of reliable reports have suggested that China is going to be funding the project, with China Jiangxi being the designated contractor and receiving a $135.7 million loan from the Exim Bank of China. China has in recent years provided a whole host of investments into African based projects, from January 2013 – July 2016, there has been year-on-year increases of Chinese investment into Africa. The year up to July 2016 saw a 515% increase compared with investment figures for the full year of 2015, $14 billion has so far been invested by Chinese companies.
The solar farm is predicted to decrease the carbon emissions of Kenya up to 43’000 tonnes per annum and REA chairman Simon Gicharu has said the project will create at a minimum, 1000 new job opportunities for the area. “We are setting up a mini-city in the middle of a desert with over 1,000 workers, meaning we are opening up that place,” he said.
Currently, solar power in Kenya accounts for less than 1% of the current 2’333MW of power capacity, the project is expected to have a significantly positive contribution after it was revealed that the plant will be connected to the grid; meaning that some of the power is going to support energy requirements in Nairobi, the countries highly-populated capital.
Energy shortage in Africa is still a key deterrent for development investors in Africa, which has resulted in political parties looking to solar energy as a major investment opportunity; currently Morocco has the continents biggest capacity of solar power.